From Great to Good

We need a few great leaders. But we need a whole lot more good leaders.

“Wait, did I read that right? you may ask. Don’t you mean from good to great?”

No. We need a few great leaders, but we need a whole lot more good leaders. Here’s why.

Aspiring to Greatness

From the time we were young we’ve been encouraged to aspire to greatness. To be the best at something. “Break the glass ceiling, the sky’s the limit, the world is your oyster,” In the church we assign greatness to pastors who attract large numbers to warm chairs and lead capital campaigns to build that state-of-the-art sanctuary that will attract even more people than ever before. Numbers drive us. We measure what we value. A megachurch pastor with five services on Sunday and two on Saturday is considered great.

The problem is this aspiration for greatness is an American enterprising model that isn’t realistic for the vast majority of leaders. Everything I know about Bill Hybels, for example, is that he’s an excellent leader. But his 25,000-member church set a high bar that will never be attainable to most pastors. In fact, many who have tried to copy Hybels’ seeker-driven model have ended up doing more harm than good.

Kassie’s Story

Kassie remembers when her church was meeting in a rented office building with about 150 people in attendance. She enjoyed the pastor’s messages because they got to the heart of the gospel. When Kassie was beginning service overseas the church supported her with a financial gift. Over the years the church began to grow. When Kassie moved back to the US after a number of years she started attending the church again. But it looked a lot different from what she remembered. Now, the church had grown to 5000+ attendees. Most of the time Kassie interacted with the pastor via a large screen that was telecasted from a different location. His messages were different, too. He still presented the gospel, but more as an afterthought. Desiring real community Kassie joined a small group. She was a bit surprised that her small group “leader” talked about living with her boyfriend. Despite her experience in ministry, invitations to “serve” only included being a door greeter or working at the coffee bar. When Kassie left the church, nobody seemed to notice she was gone.

The leader of this church is in the “great” category. But the church seems to have missed the boat where people like Kassie are concerned. What many people need is a good leader, not a great one.

A Good Leader

See, a good leader is focused on serving others. A good leader adopts a Christ-centered leadership motif. A good leader is all about the highest kingdom potential of the people he leads (“if you fail, then, I, too have failed”). A good leader values relationships more than processes. A good leader leads by influence. A good leaders sees people. A good leader speaks truth among the politically correct.

Is Greatness Attainable For All?

Jim Collins has done a lot of research on leaders of “good” organizations that became “great.” In his book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t,” the main idea is that everyone can aspire to be what he calls “Level 5 organizations” by doing a certain number of things around what seems to be a simple formula: humility and dogged persistence. Some of this persistence means “getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus,” which basically treats people as a commodity, as cogs in the machine. I don’t remember Jesus calling us to this.

Yet the number of leaders who are actually leading “Level 5 organizations” (as Collins defines it) is rare. So is this definition of greatness really attainable? And are we just hurting ourselves and our churches in the process of trying? Smaller churches close because they can’t compete with the megachurch consumer model. And people like Kassie are being left out to dry.

Abdul’s Story

Meanwhile, Abdul lives on the other side of the world in a people group of 8 million people with only 200 known Christians. Abdul’s church contains 18 people that meet quietly in the dark of night. Abdul and his church are laying down their very lives every day for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Abdul has never heard of Bill Hybels, but he has heard of Jesus and the Twelve. And that’s the kind of leadership he aspires to.

Not every leader will be a great leader, but every leader can be a good one.

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